tv [untitled] August 31, 2010 1:30am-2:00am PST
started contacting me telling me these stories about their day to day lives. i had some lawyers contact me saying they had 400 felonies a year and only some of them are class a. what can i do? when those stories are repeated over and over again, it gained new momentum. the people trust me because they know i am one of them, not one of the others. with their permission, i have given information to professors who are doing scholarly studies, people who are more invested in change. it is a way of connecting with people and getting stories out. >> i am not sure the most effective way to communicate the message, but part of the message that jonathan is talking about, most of the victims and
people accused of crime coming from the same place -- part of the message that needs to get up there, talking about justice and all that, it is meaningful to folks like us, but it does not play all that well with people who are afraid of crime, people who are out of work. part of the message has to become it seems to me, going back to the sources of crime, not from an economic point of view, if you want to save money, you should do things that effectively will fight crime, as opposed to making you feel tougher and stronger. also, if you can get part of the message out that it is a tragedy when anyone is wrongfully convicted, for that person, for their family and friends, but
the other part is, if there are wrongfully convicted, there is somebody out there who is actually the criminal. part of the message has to be financial. we have been told for years people vote with their pocketbooks, so you have to make a financial analysis. i am certain it would save an enormous amount of money. it also have to get people to understand by making the criminal justice system work, you make yourself safer. not just by feeding your ego or feeding your prejudice, let's get them, let's get them. you never know when you are going to be one of them. [applause] >> that is a wonderful point. certainly, you said it much better than i was trying to. the idea of the justice system
only belonging to the prosecution is what has to change. when i got to stand up and say jonathan shapiro on behalf of the united states of america -- and the defense lawyer had to say joe smith for this shmuck -- you get a sense that the system has bought into it. if you convict an innocent man, you have committed a far worse crime than any other crime because you have let the guilty party off scot-free. that is incorrect incredibly -- an incredibly important message. if anybody is waving the flag, it ought to be the public defender's office. their reluctance to do so, somehow, the sense that if they do so in will make them seem pro-government or some kind, i have never been able to fully
grasp. >> let me ask a question. should we remake the image of the public defender in to the public crusader? is that what we want to do, do we need to, should we? >> i certainly think so. i bought into the public crusader thing when i was a child. ironically, here i am, not serving as a criminal defense attorney or public defender. i wanted to be a criminal defense attorney from the age of eight years old. i saw perry mason when i was a child. my father used to take me to the court house to watch the lawyers practiced law when i was 8 years old. i believe in the mission.
i believe -- i am a true believer. i think those images influence children. we have one here in the front row. some to serve as prosecutors first and then become criminal defense attorneys, but many of us want to defend the constitution and those rights from the very beginning, from jump. i think we do not just me to believe it in our hearts, we need to profess it publicly. i do believe, though, that jerry is right. it is not enough to talk about it amongst ourselves. it is a larger public dialogue that needs to happen in terms of the resources, the jury pool, and that means talking to people who identify more with victims. we now there are one in 100 people behind bars. that means one in 100 people knows somebody connected to the
criminal justice system. that is a tremendous opportunity for us. that means there are people in every sector of society who identify with our cause. that is when people start to understand the import of the public defender. i know very well not mind me saying this, but for the last 20 years, they have been talking about the innocent man who has been wrongly accused, and everyone thinks that is a terrible tragedy. nobody would think that that is right in america. but their message release started to sing when they shifted. we were working with them on this, at court tv, and i was the first reported to be covering the innocence project on a national basis. the message really started to sing when they talked about victims, believing for 19 years that the right guy was behind
bars and then learning that the wrong guy was behind bars. twice victimized. when the defense bar can start to work with victims rights movements. it is very hard to get the defense lawyer to think in those terms, but i think that is where we need to go. >> lawyers share some of the responsibility of their poor image, no question about it. there are some good ones, some bad ones. a very sad thing for me is that the law has become a media event, as opposed to a profession. there are lawyers to prostitute themselves on television, lawyers, talking about cases where they really do not know what is going on. they do a disservice to the public and to the profession. we need -- if lawyers are going to participate in the media, and
they should -- whenever i thought there was something negative, i responded. between 70% and 80% of the prospective jurors believe he was guilty, before a single witness was called. so the media does affect things, but lawyers have to take responsibility, too. lawyers have to rise above their ego. that principle which motivated them to become lawyers in the first place. it is not like we do not bear responsibility for our own image. >> we have some questions from the audience that we would like to ask. there is so much more we could talk about in terms of remaking our image, if we have to, and
our responsibility to make that change, it is, in fact, it is needed. first question, based on the discussion so far, i believe you are putting the cart before the horse. if the victim industry is so profitable and civilians, our clients, how do we as the attorney, change our image? shouldn't we be trying to change the public's perception of the system as a whole? >> i was trying to address that. dalton spoke to it as well. fih+-- jonathan spoke to it as. we have to make the á discussioa broader discussion, so that people understand how it affects their daily lives, how it affects the way government works. is there going to be money, our
state parks going to be open, money for education? what does this say about the state of california, where i believe the largest union is not the teachers' association, but the correctional officers association? what does that say about a society? when people find out about that, they are stunned. but that is the reality. that is what is playing on people's minds, fear, prejudice, ignorance. >> this also points to the fact of what we have to do in each individual case. that is what you're up against. and when you are in trial, the priority is your client, which is different from broadcast journalism, television drum up. -- drama.
>> but you cannot turn a blind eye to it. >> that question is deeply troubling when you look at certain cases. there are certain cases where it is a no-win situation. the robert blake case, when jerry managed to do was truly a lesson for trial lawyers across the board. the casey anthony case, now in florida. you have to think to yourself, how does she win a case like that? any casewh/vñ that received nationwide attention is lost before you walk into the courtroom. it then becomes your job to turn around. there is a presumption of guilt on any client and then you add the nationwide attention, it is insurmountable. >> so we have a responsibility
to speak to the public? you have to figurer want to say in who you can say it to, but it seems like you are say we almost have a responsibility. >> in most cases. >> aside from the attitude of public defenders, is there something inherently more challenging about being a defender in the limelight than being in the day -- a d.a? >> it is everything we have talked about. there is the inherent bias against us as a criminal defense lawyers. added on top of that is the fact that we have this position of incompetence, somebody who is new that does not know what they're doing.db&
and that our clients are probably guilty or there would have hired a real lawyer. it is amazing, considering those biases, that we speak to anybody in the press. why would we go to that source when our image has been so abused in? >> but how do we change if we do not go to the source? >> we have to, but you have to overcome that initial resistance. >> years ago i was involved in the case and one of the question was, what you think about prosecutors? wonderful. what about criminal defense lawyers? one person wrote just one word, sleazy. when i met him i said, we have never met, i did not take it personally. he said, oh, i meant it in a
good way. [laughter] people don't appreciate how important jury selection is. judges often totally lose track of that because they want to move these cases. particularly in the immediate case, but in every case. >> one of the members of the audience would like to know, how do get the public to understand our great work which involves the phantom of the guilty, and sometimes an acquittal for some? >> the medical profession accidentally butchers about 100,000 people a year.
kills them. yet, people love doctors. this is a wonder to me. i had the pleasure of convicting four doctors in my time as a prosecutor and my only regret is not convicting more of them. somehow, the public loves doctors. i do not know if there is a position in the government, the surgeon general, who represents the medical profession as a government, do good service. there is nothing like that for our profession. the ama does a lot better work and our bar association does. when jerry is representing robert black, he is working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, giving zealous advocacy for his one client. when the public defender is handling 400 felonies, they do not have time to remake their image. it seems to me the biggest
problem we face is to recognize we have a problem. the problem is there is not an association or spokesperson who represents the position. it is too much to ask the individual lawyer or public defender's office to do it, but a group of office is working together to pool their resources, to educate the public as to what they do in the interest of justice might actually start to change attitudes. >> last question. what effect has the "war on drugs" specifically, the rationalized profiling of drug dealers done to those parties involved and to the criminal justice system?
someone mentioned "the wire." >> everybody loves to talk about post-racial america. but i think most folks in this room would agree that we are not in post-racial america yet. this is almost another panel to talk about race in america, the media, the intersection of crime in america and race. there is, i think, a perception, among people in america that the victims of crime are different from who the victims of car really are. -- crime really are.
are there and whether they really belong there. gary is right, -- jerry is right, we use the criminal justice system as a social service center for problems that need to be addressed in other ways. [applause] i think that if people were told by the folks in my business that this is not an economically efficient way to do things, they might come around to doing things another way. but there are too many people interested in doing it the way that we did -- a way that we do it to get there. people in my business are not necessarily familiar enough with the criminal justice system to understand what it is the way it is. most of us do not come from this business, we come from the business of making news.
i think that is a very difficult question. "the wire" in and of itself is a difficult and controversial question since that program could generate a panel conversation, and i know it has and does. i think the public defender's role, just on the issue of drug crime and violence and reform, reform of the drug laws in the country -- i can only speak to the state of new york where i am. i think that is one place in which -- maybe when we talk about remaking the image of the public defender, we take it piece by piece is an issue by issue. maybe that is the issue where we start. if the task seems to great at first, in terms of resources, the case load, maybe we go issue
by issue and that is the place to start, especially in the bay area and san francisco, where the public would be more receptive to reform and hearing from public defenders on a given issue. >> anyone else? with that, i want to thank all of you and association has a media mmittee, and they're going to be looking at the issue, but we need a lot of people to get involved. four or five months ago, tom donald approached me. he is a director and directs commercials. he had a proposition that he would create a professionally produced public service announcement about public defenders, and how could i possibly say no to that very generous proposition? so i'm going to ask tom to say a few words about how he got the idea for this public service announcement.
i think you will agree when you see it, it is unique. that you have not seen anything like this on television. tom. [applause] >> i'm not an attorney. i'm a director and a film maker. i actually have a ball cap to prove it. [laughter] so i will put it on. we all learned this from steven spielberg, who popularized the use of baseball caps. jeff is right. i have been a longtime fan of jets for a long time. first, i want to thank him for the opportunity to make this peace. people in my position often talk about giving back, and it is usually worth about the price of the words, and nothing more. in this case, i have known jeff for a long time, and i know the good work that he does, and i really wanted to make the contribution that i could. we talked for a long time about themes for this commercial, and we decided -- kind of mutually, i think -- that the resumption
of innocence -- i heard the panelists in both panels talk about this repeatedly -- is really about the highest ground that his office to take in a broadcast television commercial. but beyond that -- i have forgotten her name -- very articulate young lady -- we were talking about post-racial america and how all of us collectively and singularly, the people on television and media, would like to believe that is in fact the case, and yet we all know -- i think everyone in his room at least can recognize that is not the case. really, this commercial is the marriage of those two ideas, the marriage of the concept -- that the concept, but the bedrock principle in our code of justice, which is the presumption of innocence, and the recognition if you well that we have a long way to go to combat stereotypes, prejudice, and outright bias, not only in the judicial system, but in our american society, and that is
>> show me your hands. [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. [applause] >> wasn't that great? just the incredible job that tom and his crew did. we are going to be making his public service announcement available to public defenders all over the state and all over the country. we are going to be rolling it out in the next couple of weeks, so you can watch it on your to. we have lunch for you in the next room over. the eligibility of hispanic room is on the same level. simply walk over in that direction, and we'll be back
here right at -- 1:15 or 1:30? right at 1:30. so we see that we have one>> go, and welcome back. hope everybody had a nice lunch break. it is now my pleasure to introduce a managing attorney of the public defender's office reentry unit. she is in charge of overseeing the work that we do in helping clients and former clients get back on their feet and lead productive lives. part of her job is overseeing the program was started 10 years ago that helps individuals clear their criminal records. the clean slate program. [applause] >> good afternoon, and welcome back.
i am with the public defender's office, and i do oversee the clean slate program. but for those of you who do not know, it was san francisco's original reentry program that was started over a decade ago. at the time, we were helping a few hundred people each year, and today, we fell over 2000 people -- we held over two dozen people clean up their criminal records. our goal is to help people have a dignified return from the criminal justice system. -- we help over 2000 people clean up their criminal records. the panel today is entitled "paving the road to reentry: clean slate and state law and criminal record reform." the discussion comes at a time when there is an unprecedented amount of people incarcerated. these individuals are returning from prison at the rate of
600,000 per year. in california, that rate is 115,000 per year. in california, over 1 million people have a conviction record, and one in five individuals have an arrest or criminal conviction. so we have to ask ourselves -- is criminal record reform an urgent priority for california? and if so, what is being done? and how can we go further? let's hear what our distinguished panel has to say. our first panelist is dr. steven richardson, a renowned author and professor of criminal justice at the university of wisconsin oshkosh. i have to say that dr. richards probably will not authorize this, but i am going to make a plug for the book he has written. i want to say he has written the book "convict criminology."
another book called "behind bars." and "beyond bars." so check it out on amazon. we also have with us the policy co-director of the national employment law project. and eliza hirsch is the supervising attorney in the clean slate pride is at the east bay community law center. welcome, panelists. i want to tell the audience that while we are having this session, if you have questions, feel free to write them down, and the ushers will get them some you. at the end of the discussion, we will have a question and answer session. dr. richards, it is my understanding you have some personal experience in this area. i would ask you to share your experiences with us and tell us about the barriers that exist for